Three militants serving life sentence here for role in the 1995 assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh on Saturday petitioned the UT administration for parole.
Initially, Gurmeet Singh (42), Lakhwinder Singh (42) and Shamsher Singh (56), who belong to Patiala district of Punjab and are lodged in the Burail model jail of Chandigarh, had refused to put their signatures on parole applications during a meeting with family and counsels on Friday evening. Instead, they were forcing them to pursue their cases for premature release.
On Saturday, after their counsels advised them again that premature release and parole were in the UT's jurisdiction and not Punjab's and that the only immediate option now was to seek parole, the three life convicts agreed, top government sources have said and a radical leader privy to the developments inside the Burail jail has confirmed.
Now the UT will seek a report from the Patiala district authorities about these inmates, on whether they can be released on parole. It is highly unlikely that the Patiala administration will give an adverse report, keeping in view the Punjab government's attempt to defuse the tension being created by the fast-unto-death of former militant Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa, who has the backing of Sikh radical leaders and beem demanding the release of six former militants.
On Friday, Punjab's jail department acted fast to grant 42-day parole to another former militant, Lal Singh (50), who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1997 by a Gujarat court under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) Prevention Act. He was in the high-security Nabha jail, and on Saturday at the venue of Khalsa's hunger strike at Gurdwara Amb Sahib in SAS Nagar.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Saturday spoke with his Karnataka counterpart, Siddaramaiah, about the case of another ex-militant, Gurdeep Singh Khaira (54), is from Jallupur Khaira village of Amritsar district and lodged in Karnataka's Gulbarga jail. Ever since his arrest in December 1990 and the award of life sentence, Khaira has not been released either on bail or parole.
The government sources say the chances of the three former militants' getting lengthy parole are bright, since even the family of slain chief minister Beant Singh has said openly that it will have no objection.
Life imprisonment means till death
Ever since former militant Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa began his fast-unto-death outside Gurdwara Amb Sahib in SAS Nagar, radical leaders have been demanding the release of six former militants serving life sentence. Their argument is that since the militants have been in jail for more than 18 years, their life sentence is over. The law, however, states otherwise.
Under the Supreme Court ruling, unless the life sentence is commuted or remitted, the prisoner is bound to remain in prison for life. "…it is clear that in the absence of subsequent order of remission by the competent government, either based on Section 57 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or any other provision of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, the life convict cannot be released…," says the ruling.
In their February 2013 ruling, the bench of justices P Sathasivam and Jagdish Singh Khehar held that: "life imprisonment means imprisonment for the entire life subject to the remission power granted under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution."
The apex court has clarified that period of imprisonment for life is equivalent to the imprisonment for the entire remaining natural life, unless the competent authority has commuted the sentence.